Secrets (behind the Pro Level Circuit)

December 31, 2016

What you didn’t know about the PT Circuit!

Miguel Gatica

23 Years old from Costa Rica
Lifetime: 66 pro points.
12th Pro Tour Return to Ravnica
9th GP Costa Rica
3 times National Champion

More Posts (9)

Hola amigos!

For those of you who don’t know me you can check my last 2 articles in here:
July 4 2013 Magic Around the World

August 13 2013 Through GP Rimini to WMC


I started playing back in 2002-2003. And since the moment I realize there was a Pro Tour Circuit I was sold. I really enjoyed back then watching all these players do well; I spent hours and hours watching the text coverage from all these events, dreaming that one day I’ll be there.

As almost every new player I had my favorite Top Pro Players, Raphael Levy, Antoine & Olivier Ruel, Finkel, Katsuhiro Mori, etc just to say a few…

All of them seem really good players and nice human beings, they played so well and I really wanted to meet them at the Pro Tour one day.

People in the US have the chance to meet them in a Grand Prix or in their local store for PTQs compared to other countries that we only have the “dream” of meeting or playing against them.

Quick recapitulation of My Magic Career

2002-2005: New player

2006-2010: Fan – Played in 2 Pro Tours and 4 Worlds. Doing well in constructed portions and doing poorly in the limited ones. Main problem is that I thought I was really good, which I was not. I didn’t play much limited at the time. And I didn’t have the time neither the connections. So basically I was playtesting by myself for these events.

2011- August 2012: I was basically in a break from Magic.

2012 September – 2013 Present: Full time MTG Player

First Pro Tour

My first Pro Tour was back in 2006, it was PT Honolulu. My first match was against Antoine Ruel, which was one of my favorite Pro Players, he was extremely nice to me and after the match I asked him to sign my Antoine Ruel Pro Player card. Even though I did badly at the tournament I was very excited about playing at this level and getting to know all these pro players.

Next International Events

In the next events I got to play against many pro players, some of them were really nice and some of them were just really mean.

I defeated many of them actually, which probably maybe affected the way they treated me. But since I was new to the scene I was just excited about playing against them.

In all these events I got pro players to sign to me lots of pro player’s cards and regular cards. I was a fan. I really was super happy that they signed my cards.

Transition from Fan to Pro

After playing in approximately 6 big events I realized I was doing something wrong, and after a break from Magic I came back with another perspective, I needed to put more time into it, since being one of the best Latin American players was just not enough.

I learned lots of things in this period. I didn’t talk to many people back then, and I was just really a fan, since I got excited about playing against the pros and getting to sign my cards etc.

So basically if I wanted to do well I needed to step up my game and feel like I was an equal and not just a guy who idolatrizes them.

What people back home can’t see

In these events I learned that when you are back home you create these preconceptions about players, and that many times they are just wrong. Many times you identify with a player just because they play certain type of decks but sometimes you identify with them based on how you think they are true gentlemen and very sportsmanship players.
This is my opinion about certain people; sometimes you meet them in just a bad day. But this is what I have seen through all these years.


For instance the Ruel brothers, great human beings, from my first PT match to the point when they were about to “stop” playing or being very active players, I saw them each year at worlds, and Antoine always said Hi to me, I felt very good about it, one year I even defeated both and he was still smiling and being a true gentleman


Everybody loves Finkel.
I knew from the beginning that he was a very serious player; I have played 2 times against him back in 2007 and last year, I didn’t enjoy at all playing against him, probably because I know he is a just the best player, but you can tell that he thinks Latin Americans are cheaters, since I gave him zero reasons to believe that I was a cheater and he was continuously looking at me suspiciously. He is not the person I thought he was at all. He was constantly trying to make me forget triggers. For example I was attacking with couple of signal pests and pointing out the triggers and he would just say the life total after damage without the triggers, I told him that I pointed out the triggers and he would just agreed. Weird.
I like the challenge of playing against the best of all time, but I thought he was going to be more like a “Reid Duke”.

Katsuhiro Mori

At one point when he won worlds he was my favorite player.
I got the chance to play against him in 2007, when I was undefeated in the T2 portion and got paired against him and I lost to him in a very weird way, I can’t remember exactly the details since it was a long time ago, but I’m totally sure that it was just weird. But back at the time I was very naive.

In 2010 I had more experience, and got paired in the limited portion of Worlds against him.
There was this rumor that some Japanese players were doing some kind of cheating, in which in the long game they just skipped a draw step without the opponent noticing, and then they call a judge saying that the opponent drew an extra card.

Well Katsuhiro tried to do that against me. 100% Sure.
I’m not afraid of saying this. He is a cheater. He basically tried to do that and thank god I already knew what was about to happen so I called the judge immediately, obviously as most of the times the judges were not able to realize what was really happening, and after I defeated him I approached to the judge and told him what was really going on, he said WOW! I didn’t know about that, but well Katsuhiro saw me after the match talking to the judge and he basically came to me and said in his broken English that he was sorry; he really looked scared and I was really angry so I basically told him to go away.

Luis Scott Vargas

Gentleman. What you see is what you get.
We have played a couple of feature matches and he was always nice. A professional in all the possible ways you can be one.

Michael Jacob

My only experience with him was just more than enough to really dislike him.

Last December I was playing in a feature match against Luis Scott Vargas in round 9 of day 1 of GP Indianapolis. I had Pack Rat in my deck. LSV had Pack Rat and Mizzium Mortars

He won the dice roll.

Turn 1 LSV: Swamp go
Turn 1 Miguel: Swamp go

Turn 2 LSV: Swamp, Pack Rat
Turn 2 Miguel: Swamp, Pack Rat
To those of you not familiar with this situation, the player who plays pack rat first is just always going to be ahead.

In the next draw step I drew Traitorous Instinct, so at first instance I thought it was going to be a game breaker, and then I realized it was not going to be enough. At one point he attacked me and I had to block since I was at 12, so I drop down to 4. He was at 12 and I controlled 2 Pack Rats, and he had 1 untapped. So before my turn I was trying to decide whether if I play the Traitorous Instinct and go for the bluff or if I just simply scoop. But then I thought that probably he has never been in this same situation, and if I thought at first instance that it was a bunch of damage why wouldn’t he. So I untapped and played the card very confident and he scooped instantly.

While we were shuffling and sideboarding for game 2 I saw Michael Jacob standing next to us while the judge Jeph Foster was sitting next to us. And then Michael asked Luis why he scooped if it was only 11 damage and not 12. At the point I told the judge if he was allowed to speak. Obviously he is not. He then told me that it doesn’t matter that the game is over, so I told him that it DOES MATTER, since if the exact same situation happens in game 2 he wouldn’t scoop and I will just lose because of that. He got kicked out of the feature match area. Then Jeph told the Head Judge what happened and they told me if I wanted to report him so that he gets a penalty or something. I said that I was new to the Circuit and that I didn’t want to have problems with anyone.

Special Treatment

I do think some players get a special treatment just because they are famous.
For instance what I just told you guys about the whole Michael Jacob thing, if someone else did that they would get a more severe penalty compare to what would “happen” to a Pro. I have seen judges giving very loose rulings just because they are giving them to a Pro Player. And I think some judges are afraid of giving big penalties to some of them, well not giving, I’ll say reporting, because probably they do not have much experience with these situations and besides that they are also Magic players. That means that back home they go to the local store to judge and play. And reporting or DQing a Pro would mean that these situation would go back home.

Melissa DeTora

Some people think she is very dry and not funny, well she is a professional. And I met her for the first time in GP Costa Rica last year. Since then I have hung around with her and James a lot of time. And guys… I had a blast with them! She is a very good human being and she’s actually funny in contrast to the popular belief.
I have watched so many people asking her for an autograph, picture or advice and each single time she has been super nice to them.

The Canadians

Marc Anderson, Alexander Hayne, Pascal Maynard, David Caplan, Jon Stern just to say a few…

All of them are super nice and fun to hang around. My time of teaming up with them has come to an end but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t hang around with them.

Those days of flipping Oreo cookies (Head & Tails Oreos) for $40-$100 the flip… Oh boy… Super Aggro.

Ps: tails

Brad Nelson

I played against him in Pro Tour Seattle and he basically threw his cards after he lost.
After that I have seen him many times since we both smoke between rounds. Each time I watch Above the Curve or some video with him I laugh a lot, he looks like such a really fun guy to hang around, and each single time after watching the video I wish we were friends (lol) but then I saw him in person and it just disappears hahaha no no, seriously he is a lot funnier in the videos.


A lot of Pro Players used to play in this league. Thomas Holzinger, Pascal Maynard, Paulo Vitor, Marc Anderson, etc just to say a few.


This just makes me sad. But you have to be very careful.
The most common type of cheating at the Grand Prix level is while they are shuffling and they look at your cards.

Many judges are not capable of dealing with these situations.


There are a lot of great judges in the circuit. But there are also a lot of inexperienced judges who are afraid of reporting some issues. Don’t be afraid to appeal.

Feature Match Area

Contrary to popular belief there’s a lack of judges in this area.
I do think there should be more judges around in this area. For example this past GP Oakland round 15, there was probably one in the whole area keeping the life totals of the video feature match…


Way more players than I thought consume this drug.
Live and let live. But this is something that shouldn’t be around during the tournament.

Extra Help?

In day 2 of limited GPs after you draft your deck, they gave you a piece of paper with a number on it, that’s where you are going to build your deck. I have seen Pro players sending scouts to those tables to let them know what did the other players drafted etc.
I don’t know exactly the regulations against this.

Good or Bad

Many players that I thought were good are actually “bad”, based on many of the commentaries some top pros said.


Being on a team for Pro Tours is super important. Some do well without it. But is basically a must if you want to stay on the tour.

Speaking of teams I just recently left the Mana Deprived team and joined another team. (Raphael Levy, Melissa DeTora, Wafo Tapa, etc)

We are going to Dublin 2 weeks before the event to test.

Helene Bergeot – WoTC Staff
She is super nice! Seriously she is, and she is super patient, since a lot of people message her with tons of questions and she always answers them even though they are repeated questions. She even bought ice cream for all the World Cup Competitors. If you haven’t had the chance to talk to her I recommend doing it.


Something I have noticed is that magic players love gossip.
And in the US I have noticed that it happens a lot more. Many of them are very hypocrite, especially towards the coverage guys, since I have watched many of the pros talking with them and then when they leave they start talking bad about them. And so on…


Well there are many things I have seen that I’m probably not allowed to write or say. But this is pretty much most of them. But clearly there’s a lot more going on, than what you see from home.

But either way the Pro Circuit is just great in general. It needs some improvements but in general it is my life at this moment and I wouldn’t change it for doing something else.

Last Tournaments:

I played in GP Oakland this past weekend, finished 20th after losing the win and in against the guy with perfect hair hahaha, who ended up finishing 2nd. (He won GP Vegas)
This was my 3rd GP cash in a row. (Kansas, Rimini, Oakland)
Since I had my attitude change everything is going up for me. I recommend being more positive and focusing in your play rather than results, since if you play tight and good the result would eventually come. (Oye tigre/mae, calcano esto que dije era para usted, Google translate it)

Future Events

GP ghetto / Detroit
PT Dublin
GP Louisville

Pura Vida,

Miguel Gatica

MTGO: MGatica

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